What families should know about organ donation

WRAL | Jennifer Graham, Deseret News

When the surgeon took her only daughter's heart out, Lacey Erickson was lying in her bed at home, four blocks away.

It was 2:30 in the morning on a Sunday in August, 11 days after the worst phone call the single mom in Idaho Falls, Idaho, had ever received. The words of the caller sent her racing to the hospital, so fast that she beat the ambulance there.

Although Erickson’s daughter, Makayla, lived long enough to tell her mother that she loved her, she could not recover from the injuries she sustained when she was thrown from a moving ATV six weeks before her 18th birthday.

And now, with Erickson’s permission, surgeons were removing her daughter's organs in the middle of the night — without anesthesia, because even though Makayla was still breathing with the help of a ventilator, she was officially dead. She was, in the cold, clinical language of medicine, a beating-heart cadaver.

In her bed, Erickson heard the whine of the helicopter coming to pick up pieces of her daughter that would be flushed with preservative and packed in ice, its pilot a participant in the multi-layered dance of precision that enables organ donation, the only good thing about the calamity that had befallen Makayla and her family.

For Makayla Erickson died perfectly in one way — under conditions that allow the donation of a heart: in a hospital, while on a ventilator, from a brain injury. Continue reading
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